Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Response

The year ends
and the journey
is recounted
not day by day
not events
nor what was said
or written, but how
we listened and how
we turned to hear
what might be unsaid
and answered

Friday, December 30, 2016

It Isn't Important

     at the door
     the lawn
     to the road
             Louis Zukofsky

the ice
against our
not deterring
the electrician
who said i don't
know why the red light
stays on
but try turning off
the circuit breaker
waiting a minute
then turn it on again
and we did and the
light went out
sometimes knowing
the why isn't

at the door to
the store the ice
made walking
an experiment
in staying upright
and we bought
a small smart

tonight we pitted
our minds against
the smart machine
and for a long time
we felt confused,
baffled and at a loss
and then after
telling us we weren't
connected not once
but time after time
we were congratulated
because it had happened
we coupled with the
smart television
It happened
and the how
Isn't important

Thursday, December 29, 2016


what happened to the year
or the one before that
or even the one when
i waited on line for forty
minutes to buy gas
to travel across the state
to watch an artist weave
a basket on a shaker form

what happened to the year
i sat in a coffeehouse talking
about existential writers as if
my universe depended upon
believing that they wrote reality

what happened to the year
i walked beyond the mirror
into a new landscape

my book of years grows thick
a few pages overlap

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Days Cannot Hold

The child who becomes the adult who cannot forget.

The adult who refuses to address the past.

Strangers who stare past one another.

Tears that spill out and spread across the landscape.

A neighborhood where shadows move beyond their shapes.

A line drawing that follows its own path.

A line lost.

The sound of a subway train screeching into a station.

The packed car with people plastered against one another.

Homeless people sharing a grate on a frigid night.

Stories told slant as if words lost their meaning.

Refugees fleeing to people showing their backs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What to Read?

This is the time of year to select a reading challenge for 2017. What will it be? One year I read alphabetically by author and another year alphabetically by title. Then I did a Scandinavian challenge and an Australian author challenge. One year I did a challenge of first books in an author series. There was the dystopian challenge and the British mystery challenge.

If you check the web the number of challenges grows each year. Some challenges desire a review, some just want you to check in, and some leave you alone.

A conundrum -- what will it be for 2017?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Blue Sweater

despite its loss twenty years ago i still miss my blue pullover the one i purchased when i was a junior in college and it was a cold damp winter and i wanted and found just the right wool sweater which had no adornments and was a no frills sweater which suited my personality because i rarely wore bright colors or ornate clothes to school or out but selected very plain tailored outfits save for the buttons i affixed to an outer garment 

buttons that reflected my beliefs and those i'd be willing to march for or involve myself in long convoluted dialogue with whoever held opposing views 

often i pinned buttons to the blue wool sweater as if i were a cork board inviting discussion and standing up for the words printed on the button whether it was political or a social ill that needed to be addressed

buttons stayed until new causes or better worded or new campaigns needed space and then i stored the old buttons in a cigar box and in time those buttons found their way onto a cork board which they shared with buttons announcing a myriad of subjects be it planned parenthood or the local church bazaar 

people gave me buttons and my presidential buttons included those i wouldn't vote for but became collectibles which i added to the cork board 

in time one cork board became two and then three and finally four cork boards with each one measuring three feet wide by two feet high and displayed on a wall 

before moving from a condo to an apartment and then to a house i divested myself of all the cork boards and their buttons

the buttons and blue sweater are gone although the sweater lasted for twenty-five years as a reminder to me of greenwich village, long conversations about existentialism, trips to the museum, hot chestnuts in a small brown bag, and as a symbol 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Six Lines

I did it, albeit unconsciously. Back in April I purchased a small five year diary--six lines a day. There's no space for philosophical musings, or even truncated opinions. It's what happened on that day-- a boring account of comings and goings.

 I started to write down Legal Seafood for Christmas dinner with friends and after I had penned the first sentence I noticed that the day at the top of the 3"x5" diary was incorrect. I had gained a day.

Ten minutes later I discovered my error. A day in early December I erred and instead of sticking with the facts of the day--my comings and goings with an occasional short delectable thrown in after an incredible culinary delight.

My loquacious side kicked in when I wrote about the hate mail and graffiti that appears more pronounced after the election. As soon as I penned the sentence " Hate as been legitimized as acceptable. Permission has been granted..." I was off and running. Without stopping after six lines I continued from a Sunday through Monday without even being aware of the constriction. I battered right across the barrier.

Its amended. Sat and Sunday share six lines and white out corrected the sentence. ( It's crowded and I wrote on the sides of the lines)  

Back on track. Just the day--event after event.

Tread mill. Listened to a podcast interview with Eugene Robertson. Just the facts.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


        Prayers are tools not for doing or getting,
        but for being and becoming.
                 Eugene Peterson

to quiet
down and enter
holy space
to hear the silence
laden with words
to listen
to learn
to abandon
and follow
step after step

Friday, December 23, 2016

Too Busy

the grocery store will stay open to 11:00pm for "that last minute food shopping"

how late will the stores remain open for last minute shoppers, another can't miss deal

does anyone tabulate the number of "must have" appliances that are bought, sold, brought back

how big is that television

is santa's beard real

         and don't forget there's a story to tell

         you want the book, no, you want to see the movie, i don't know if it's out on DVD

         you always watch Miracle on 34th Street

         this story started everything

         yes, i do know the director and producer

         I can introduce you

         no time, you still have presents to buy, a big dinner, maybe next year


Thursday, December 22, 2016


Years ago my next door neighbors celebrated Christmas without any of the trappings. No large tree adorned the living room, no greenery or wreath hung on the house, Santa's reindeer didn't have a place on the roof, and the front yard was devoid of any blown up figures. Starting the week before Christmas the family gathered and read the gospels together. The youngest, Michael, needed help sounding out words. After the reading they sang-- gospel music, folk songs, carols.  If you stood right outside their house you heard six voices, a guitar, and a piano. Peter, their eldest, sometimes played his recorder.

No one created dioramas or strung popcorn on a tree. They did have one family crèche.

On Christmas Eve they had other families over to celebrate with a service they wrote.

And if you asked any of the ten children to tell you about Christmas their story was the gospel story.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Reminder

Stay awhile until the night diminishes
and daybreak begins her entrance
Remain until shapes gain form
and dreams retreat into forgotten realms
Listen to the earth groan and push itself
up to meet footfalls and a blanket of frost
Today begins again but all is not new,
yesterday hangs on to today
The snow of two days ago has left a remnant
Words spoken still hover and wait
for a resting place, nothing is wasted

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mostly Gone

when womyn's bookstores closed it was because we had gone mainstream with designated sections filled with feminists titles in nearly every mainstream bookstore and then shelves of women's studies and in the more progressive stores shelves of gay and lesbian books and eventually the heading included the entire spectrum of LGBTQ books but now with the changing climate the loss of the womyn's book store feels like a visceral loss

Monday, December 19, 2016


It happened when I held my arms
up as if ready for flight
It happened too soon
Perhaps I never assumed the almost
airborne pose in front of a mirror
or I'm always too busy rushing
to finish brushing my teeth
to take off on airborne journeys
But once the jolt hit, the memory
of my grandmother and mother's
upper arms came to mind--
their skin hung without form,
all youthful vigor gone, flaccid
Tonight I became my grandmother,
I became my mother, my upper arms
lacked strength, were devoid of shape
Tomorrow I will buy two weights
and attempt to hold age at bay

Sunday, December 18, 2016

An Advent Sunday

We sang
In the bleak midwinter,
a stable place sufficed

We turned the pages
in the  hymnal
Call upon his name,
declare His doings among the people

A few read poetry
and we sang more hymns
My soul gives glory to my God
My heart pours out its praise

A congregant stood
behind the pulpit
and read scripture
in a clear voice
Behind her a simple cross
hung from the vaulted ceiling
Then a silence
while we waited for the
next reader
We watched the empty
speaker's stand
Then his wife called
his name
to remind him of his turn
and he moved from his seat
behind the lectern
He moved as if he
didn't know what was expected
but when he read
We lay our lives before you
his voice held strong
and the poet's words resonated
But then when the words ended
he lost his way
as if his reading was an interlude
between his confusion
We sang of God's love
We watched love enacted

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Warm Thoughts

The cold turns my fingers red
The tip of my nose turns frigid
I put on heavy socks, shoes with grippers
and I seek out warmer and warmer gloves
I seek fleece lined pants without success
It is the time of year when long books
aren't quite long enough, when I start
projects to last the winter-- and compile
lists of the coldest spot on the planet,
the height of the Tower of Babel before
God thought it a poor idea, how many
angels really did stand on the head of a pin
It is the time of year I begin to collect recipes,
listen to a cooking show, buy new spices
and continue to cook the same recipes
But now as winter gets a foothold
I must acquire a long term winter project--
Perhaps I shall illustrate the Bible
or write a sestina every day
or only read books that are over 700 pages
or read a book day--that's been done
I think I'll stick with my illustrations
and an occasional sestina

Thursday, December 15, 2016


the wind attempts to force
a way in, pushes against
the windows, inhales and
tries to squeeze under the
door, looks for any opening
before shaking loose some
branches from a tree and
turning over my neighbor's
trash bin

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To Believe

When she read about the anti-aging cream and the gaggle of celebrities who attest to its miraculous attributes-- wrinkles gone, sagging skin firmed, crow lines gone, and soft and supple skin she wondered if this was hyperbolic language--or a miraculous cure.

After all she saw the crutches left at the entrance to El Santuario de Chimayo--an indication of the lame being healed. And she lived in the Bronx --the same borough where Joey Vitolo had a divine sighting of The Blessed Virgin Mary in an empty lot.

Maybe the people who came to pray selected the name or a newspaper writer chose to call the place the Queen of the Universe Shrine at 3091 Grand Concourse.

The sighting happened October 29, 1945 and on October 29th the faithful show up to celebrate mass.

She wonders if those using the anti-aging cream genuflect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Archeologist

...and find his way to a sentence.
Robert Hass

Her thoughts remain below the frost line

and the detritus of places and events add weight. Carrying these words, luggage with clasps, keeps the narration limited.

Years later, she will notice the tautness of a younger woman's body,recall the way she once relaxed into dance, recall the delicious taste of blackberries, and remember the cold embrace of water:

a pond with a mud bottom and lily tendrils, a lake she swam in until the sun dipped into the water, a hungry ocean's Sneaker Wave.

When she walks through piles of leaves and listens to the scrunch,

or listens to cicadas on the edge of night or hears a shadow approach she'll try to put together words to one sentence and then another until she owns a parade of words.

She wrings out the words. Sucks them dry until they illuminate her landscape.

Then with tenderness she'll author a story.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The First Real Snow

our first snow beyond those light non-sticking flakes last week fell last night leaving three or so inches and announced the true beginning of winter which appeared without any bravado or an extraordinary early snow which doesn't mean that the rest of the winter will be modest and even when the snow is slight for most of the season there often is an unexpected storm late in the winter which causes havoc and the only redeeming feature is that the winter season is drawing to a close

it happened once in a country far away and alive only in a remnant of memory, a fragment that walks out in a snow that fills the sky with large flakes leaving no room between each flake that adds to layers and layers of white and I walk into the snow and taste snow on my tongue before tasting sweet cocoa hot from the stove

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Standing With Our Neighbors

From a guest blogger—after an uplifting gathering

December 11, 2016

Standing with Our Neighbors

Hundreds of people from Wayland and the surrounding towns, gathered today under the bluest of winter sky, the sun warming our bodies and our hearts,broken by the vilest of threats against our Muslim community.

Then a moment of illumination: A lovely young woman reaches out her hand to me and says simply, “Thank you for being here.” Spontaneously, we both reach to embrace. She tells me that she has been crying all morning.

Hours later, I am still deeply touched by the outstretched hand. Suddenly I realize that she was not crying about the letter overflowing with hate that had been sent to her mosque.She is crying because hundreds of strangers have come to stand with her as neighbors. She has blessed me.

Shalom. Salaam. Peace.

Louise Higginbotham

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Songs to Sing

We need new songs--
words that dim hate filled
rhetoric, words that remind
us that it's not us against them,
words that ask us to listen to one
another, to see in another's face
our own reflection, to replace every
hurt with love, with a refrain of we are one
We can sing the songs of the sixties,
but it's time to once again create
words and melodies that speak
to this time, to the chasm in
our country, to the need to
stand up and be counted,
to refuse to let hate
have its say

We need to sing and shout
new refrains, we need to gather,
we need to march, we need to
look at one another with love
We need to be counted
We need songs to sing
and words to unite
and prayers
to pray

Friday, December 09, 2016

After the Election Blues

I waited to hear the news
will it be what I wanted to hear
will it take a turn into mist and fog
where nothing is clear and defined
where footholds are precarious
I waiting in front of the television
to hear the news
Even now--weeks later
even now--when I read the news
I can't believe what I hear
I can't believe what I read

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Shopping at L.L.Beans on a Thursday

not all petite lengths are the same
some drag on the ground
while others hang above my ankle bone
leaving my ankles bare

not all pants adhere to the same waist level
since some hang below your navel
while others hide your belly button
and some even seem to be a few
short inches below your arm pits

yet they all carry the same size label
different countries adhere
to their own size definitions

not all sleeve lengths end
at the ends of your wrist
some hang low enough to cover fingers
some are too short and leave hands
dangling as if they are
seeking something missing

this lack of similarity
this lack of consideration
sends me out of the store
willing to roll up my frayed cuffs
and wait for next year

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

When Jacob Stole Esau's Blessing

To trade your voice for another
voice, to turn away from your
identity is to mock the universe
To cover yourself with garments
the way Jacob wrapped himself
in another's skin is to lose
authenticity, to assent to wear
a mask of alienation

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My Aunt Was a Bookkeeper

My aunt rose loved high heels
even when her feet ached
She smoked Pall Malls
and blew smoke rings
across the room
She loved the track
and won her share of perfectas
She owned a round bed
and a Chinese bureau with
a dragon draped down one side
When she could no longer
remember where to put her laundry
and piled it in her bathtub,
no longer wore her heels
and became lost trying to find
her home she moved
into a nursing home
and then the hospital
On my last visit she took
a lipstick out of her bag
and painted her cheek red
It was those marks
that her friend wiped
off with a Kleenex
that I recall
and the smoke rings
I never caught

Monday, December 05, 2016

To Err is Human to Forgive Divine

...the long range weather forecaster predicted a mild winter with nary a snow drop save for a blizzard of extraordinary dimensions in february but he did not list his track record leaving me with more questions than answers and a desire for a quantitative sense of what he means when he describes something as having extraordinary dimensions which may be interpreted differently if you spent your life in texas where 1.5 inches of snow is the usual amount compared to syracuse where 123.8 inches of snow is common and yet i believe the forecaster because i tend to assume anyone who makes that kind of prediction without resorting to a crystal ball has experience predicting weather patterns without losing oneself in the phenomenon known as wet bias and yet nate silver who predicted that hillary would win the election points to weather predictions as "the one area in which our predictions are making extraordinary progress" despite the tendency of forecasters to align rain amounts with a cavalier bravado and then there is the problem of the polar vortex which when spoken of in an offhand manner sends shivers down the spines of usually resilient new englanders when they imagine the earths' coldest air rushing down the continent past the canadian borders and settling into their hamlet which is unprepared for that assault which brings me back to long range predictions and my desire to know the earliest date I can play golf in the neighboring town in 2017

...according to weather trends 360 and their portfolio of predictive business analytics and their "suite of tools developed for golf courses" this information is available for golf courses at $37.50 a month and that only guarantees an 84% accuracy but i can avail myself of their free predictions for 168 hourly forecasts for the entire globe where i discover the following information: "are you ready for siberia to invade much of the eastern two thirds of the country—it's coming" and with it the temperatures will dip fifteen to twenty-five degrees below the average for this time of year

...the frigid air is in montana and it will move across the country which means that i need to get out and purchase thermal underwear and save my sales slip lest this model has errred

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Life Cycle

When Isaac has only one blessing to give and yet has two sons, he can't alter his thinking.When Esau cried out for a blessing Isaac says he has handed out one—as if his hands are tied, his mind a blank, as if he's been tendered only a few words of blessing.Is  he repeating his own life story with his two sons as the actors? Is that the way some play out  life? Is their life a cycle of repetitions?

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Art Show Reception

Shrimp canapés
Breaded zucchini sticks
dipped in a spicy sauce
Crab meat canapés
Five layer cheese spread,
each layer a color—
i ate three levels
orange, white and green
Two mixed media roosters
The side of a barn
A round of gouda cheese
Four sheep looking through
a barbed fence
Plastic glasses of white wine
A still life made out of cobble
stones,a rusted table,
and a ceramic plate
Muffin shaped chocolate
chip confections
A nude in geometric colors
Two shark jaw bones spread
on a wharf appear to dance
Coats downstairs
Shrimp stuffed peapods
Lotus pod eyes—a voyeur
Another glass of wine

Friday, December 02, 2016

Police Logs in the Local Paper

I discover the underbelly of my community and the adjacent town.

Twice last week a noisy rooster woke one neighbor at 6:43 on Friday and then again at 6:48 on Sunday. Now if the rooster had chosen varying times I'd say there was a problem, but this particular rooster appears to be in synch with his nature. The rooster's owner explained that the rooster was new to her home and had a special purpose. She didn't disclose the purpose, nor how long the rooster might reside in its present domicile. Not offering any information about the special purpose allows me to create my own scenarios.

A possibly sick fox in the middle of the street brought out the Animal Control people who arrived after the possibly ill fellow left the premises. No forwarding address.

Loose alpacas were reported walking across the roadway near the town line. Animal Control arrived in time to herd the alpacas to the side of the road. In time the owners, who had been looking for their alpacas, arrived and took everyone home. Actually they didn't take the Animal Control officers home because they needed to be alert for other animal incidents. The alpacas enjoyed their jaunt and took to the byways again later that afternoon. Despite a report of a call to Animal Control we don't know when and if the alpacas went home. I expect they did because the cost of alpacas ranges from $2,500-$10,000. Again, a mystery. Was someone luring the animals away from their home with an eye to kidnapping and selling the alpacas? I hope they took into account the yearly cost for feed and medical necessities.

One caller reported a hawk incident. The poor bird flew into her window "and was laying on the ground." Animal Control was notified. Again, no follow up. We'll never know if the hawk survived.

And the report ended with this clip: "Police checking on a suspicious vehicle ...advised the parties in the vehicle to continue their adult activities in a more private location.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


i purchased an interweave Bible with blank pages strewn throughout the text ready for words or illustrations or both so the question becomes one of do i illustrate the words chronologically or do i skip around or do i jump from old to new now that i've learned how to page-prep my thin Bible paper not the way i gessoed a board years ago to create a religious poster for a woman who ordered one after she saw a poster I had created and called me and came over to talk about what she wanted which was a board four feet high and two feet wide depicting the horrors of eternal damnation which was a far cry from the one she had seen which was pastoral and filled with words of joy but i told myself that when a customer orders a made to order poster then unless it was immoral just create it since they were paying so i took notes and promised the board in two week's time but something happened to my resolve when I began to create what she wanted and i finally gave up and called her and said it wasn't working out because it was beyond my technical skills which wasn't a lie because i couldn't figure out how to depict a Dante type of damnation so we agreed to abandon the plan as long as i didn't charge her for the board